Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 07, 2007

'You could supply us through Aqaba'

Amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics.
Omar Bradley(?)


Colonel Brighton: I want a decision, sir.
Prince Feisal: You want me to fall back on the Yenbo.
Brighton: Well, you're not doing much good here, sir. I'm sorry to rub it in, sir, but we can't supply you here.
Feisal: You could supply us through Aqaba.

General Petraeus' logistic staff seems to have learned from Lawrence of Arabia.

With the British troops retreating to their air-base near Basra and eventually leaving, the U.S. supply route from Kuwait harbour to Baghdad is endangered. It is assumed that any U.S. conflict with Iran would lead to unrest in the southern Shia provinces in Iraq and disrupt that logistic 'line of communication'.

But the U.S. military doesn't seem very concerned. As the NYT wrote two weeks ago:

There is little talk of increasing the American troop presence along the major supply route, which links Baghdad and Kuwait and is called M.S.R. Tampa, although officials in Baghdad and Washington say other options include increased patrols by armed surveillance aircraft, attack helicopters and combat jets.

There are about 2,000 trucks per day hauling supplies on the red road, including some 3.3 million gallons of fuel per day. It is quite optimistic to believe that a 300 miles long road with many big bridges and lots of heavy traffic could be kept open by 'armed surveillance aircrafts'. So this didn't sound right to me.

Now we learn that the military built and uses an alternative. It only didn't talk about it.


McClatchy's Baghdad bureau chief Leila Fadel travels by car from Baghdad to Amman. She finds the road through Anbar province open and full of trucks:

The biggest obstacles were huge convoys of cargo trucks, escorted by American Humvees, ..
The highway then stretched for miles of dusty desert. Sometimes we veered onto access roads to avoid huge convoys of trucks, often with American military escorts. In one I counted 202 vehicles.
Later, I got an e-mail from Mohammed about his return trip to Baghdad.

"We drove all the way back at night and there were hundreds of trucks and many passenger vehicles on the road," he wrote.

While the route through Anbar was closed during the U.S. fights with the Sunni resistance, now  huge U.S. convois use it day and night without much trouble.

The 'Anbar awakening' created an alternative to MSR Tampa. The tenth of millions of dollars the U.S. payed to those pesky Sunni sheiks are a good investment. They bought a new secure supply line. These Sunni sheiks will also not complain very much when some day bombs might fall on Shia Iran ...

One might even suspect that opening an alternative to MSR Tampa was the real intent of the money induced 'awakening'. But we likely will never know ...

While the new Route Blue is about double as long as the red MSR Tampa, a long haul from the port of Aqaba is better than no haul at all. Especially when it carries your breakfast.

(Note to those nuts who will damn McClatchy for 'again revealing military secrets'. Folks in the Middle East know perfectly well how to count the trucks passing their windows. They don't need 'western' news services to evaluate its meaning.)

Posted by b on October 7, 2007 at 16:40 UTC | Permalink


Let's just hope the Arabs don't pull that trick with the camels again at Aqaba.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Oct 7 2007 19:40 utc | 1

That's double(and cost plus)the convoy's fuel costs for the American Taxpayer but who's counting or cares.

Posted by: R.L. | Oct 7 2007 19:42 utc | 2

One might even suspect that opening an alternative to MSR Tampa was the real intent of the money induced 'awakening'. But we likely will never know ...

That was my first thought too.

How convenient that the alternate supply route for a war with Iran runs through territory occupied by Sunni insurgents whom the US has courted as auxiliaries in the civil war.

Posted by: lexington | Oct 7 2007 20:33 utc | 3

Now we learn that the military built and uses an alternative.

The route from Aqaba to Baghdad is old; it was the primary supply route for Iraq during the Iraq-Iran war in the 80s. At that time a cut-off was built to avoid going through the capital Amman. I remember well overtaking endless lines of trucks.

What we don't know is whether new parts have been constructed.

Posted by: | Oct 7 2007 20:55 utc | 4

4 was me.

Posted by: Alex | Oct 7 2007 20:56 utc | 5

One might even suspect that opening an alternative to MSR Tampa was the real intent of the money induced 'awakening'.

That, and/or the reality that a very significant proportion of US deaths and wounded were happening in Anbar province. We may never know. I wish I weren't convinced that the attack on Iran were coming.

Posted by: Nell | Oct 7 2007 21:54 utc | 6

No worries R.L.

It's just money. Bernanke will just print some more.

Posted by: ran | Oct 7 2007 22:41 utc | 7

“Ticking Clocks and ‘Accidental’ War,” BY Alastair Crooke

The view from those most likely to be affected by an “accidental” war, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, all share the conclusion both that war is imminent and that any one of a number of “ticking clocks” may be “engineered” as a provocation that would by-pass the Pentagon chiefs of staff arguments against expanded conflict and trigger war. All of these actors have been preparing flat-out for the coming conflict.
These are the signs they see: Israel conducting low level overflights in Lebanon to create sonic booms; Israel, whose prime minister had been volubly warning of the risks of some misunderstanding leading to war between Israel and Syria, then launching an aerial incursion into Syria. And all of this as the international community remained silent.

The Syrians saw on their radars the four fighters that penetrated into Northern Syria from the Mediterranean; but they also saw the much larger numbers of Israeli aircraft that were flying in a holding position close to Cyprus. The Syrians were not about to disclose their anti-aircraft missile capacities to Israel; and the intruders dropped the munitions and their long-range fuel tanks without pressing any attack, but returned to join the larger group still flying a holding pattern off Cyprus before all returned to Israel as a single formation.

The Israeli objective remains a matter of speculation, but the general conclusion is that Israel was only ready to run such a risk against unknown air defenses either as a proving run or, given the size of the numbers of aircraft off Cyprus, to destroy some target that for whatever reason they were unable to engage. Either way, the mission seems related to future conflict……

Posted by: b | Oct 8 2007 7:26 utc | 8

The "surge" argument was "breathing room for reconciliation".

There will be no reconciliation. Top Iraqis Pull Back From Key U.S. Goal- Reconciliation Seen Unattainable Amid Struggle for Power

Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.

Posted by: b | Oct 8 2007 8:49 utc | 9

A very "flexible" statement by Gordon Brown: Britain to cut Iraq force to 2,500

LONDON - Britain will withdraw nearly half the troops now serving in Iraq beginning next spring, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday, leaving a contingent of 2,500 soldiers in the highly unpopular war.
Britain has around 5,000 troops based mainly at an air base camp on the fringe of the southern city of Basra.

"We plan from next spring, to reduce force numbers in southern Iraq to a figure of 2,500," Brown said in a statement. A decision on further cuts would be made once that reduction is complete, he told lawmakers.
Around 500 British logistics and support staff will be moved outside Iraq, but in the Middle East region, to support the remaining troops, Brown said. Officials said they are likely to be based in Kuwait.

Posted by: b | Oct 8 2007 15:46 utc | 10

Seems fairly obvious that with the British withdrawing from Basra, that supply route from the south was no longer secure... and of course as Nell pointed out, if an attack on Iran is imminent, that supply line would be a major vulnerability.

As for double the money for American taxpayers -- that is probably another intention here, only the reverse: double the money for the companies providing the supplies. Which, as we know, is the only real constituency this entity that we continue to call our "government" has.

Posted by: Bea | Oct 8 2007 19:04 utc | 11

It's interesting that the re-orientation of the supply line (or, at least, the creation of an alternative route) exactly mirrors the re-orientation of U.S. policy away from a hoped-for alliance with Iraq's Shi'a parties (the neocon folly) and towards the creation of an anti-Iranian "Sunni bloc" (the realists' proposed solution for the mess the neocons made).

It's also interesting that the new supply line is precisely the same one that Saddam used to supply HIS military during his long war with Iran.

These two points are not unrelated.

Posted by: Peter Principle | Oct 8 2007 19:49 utc | 12

Another "not unrelated" issues:

Osprey finally arrives in a combat zone, after more repairs

The controversial V-22 Osprey has arrived in a combat zone for the first time.

It was an epic trip for the innovative tilt-rotor plane, one that took more than 25 years of development and cost 30 lives and $20 billion. Even the last short hop — from an aircraft carrier into Iraq — went awry, U.S. military officials said Monday.

A malfunction forced one of the 10 Ospreys that were deployed to land in Jordan on Thursday. The Marines flew parts to it from Iraq and repaired it. After it took off again Saturday, the problem recurred, and it had to turn back and land in Jordan a second time, said Maj. Jeff Pool, a U.S. military spokesman in western Iraq. It finally was repaired and arrived at al Asad Air Base in western Iraq late Sunday afternoon.

The V-22 travelled on the amphibious assault ship Wasp.

Looking at the map - a transit over Jordan certainly meant they were not starting in the Persian Gulf.

I doubt they unloaded in the Mediteranian off the Israeli coast and flew accross Israel and the West Bank. To political to do for such a first time deployment. That would leave the Gulf of Aqaba as the take off point and the port of Aqaba for the ground elements (maintenance stuff etc.).

Posted by: b | Oct 9 2007 6:30 utc | 13

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